Fitness & Wellness

The "Sweat" Life

The “Sweat” Life

Maybe you love your job that involves hours of research on the computer, but you need even more. You need to sweat! Sweating can occur if you have a fever that’s breaking, with the sweat flushing out bacteria as it cools the body. It can happen when you’re simply too warm. However, the best type of sweat occurs when you workout. Clients at Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA understand that and love the benefits they receive from breaking a sweat in the gym. It’s actually not about sweating, but upping the intensity, which makes you sweat that provides the benefits.

Stand up more often and work out regularly.

It’s all about keeping your body moving. If you sit longer than an hour, many of your benefits of working out will diminish and if you don’t work out, it dramatically affects your health. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for stroke and heart disease. Just watching TV or videos four hours a day or longer can increase your potential for cardiovascular disease and death by 80%. The more active you are, the more potential you have to lower your blood pressure, increase circulation, improve your cholesterol levels, prevent osteoporosis and maintain a healthy weight.

Exercise can improve your thinking and mood.

Exercise promotes circulation and that can mean more oxygen and nutrient laden blood going to the brain, plus more waste being removed. Studies show it helps improve cognitive abilities and is useful for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. It’s also a great mood lifter and can help relieve both anxiety and depression. If you’ve ever been really angry, you know how much better you feel walking, running or exercising off the anger. It’s good for your mental health, relieving stress and boosting happy hormones.

You’ll live longer and more independently when you workout.

As you age, your body loses muscle mass. It’s starts slowly around the age of 30, earlier for some, later for others. If you workout, it slows the loss of muscle tissue. By the time people reach their 50s or 60s, muscle loss accelerates. Unless you exercise to slow or reverse the trend, it can affect your balance and interfere with your ability to live independently. Loss of muscle tissue can lead to loss of bone density.

  • You’ll fall asleep faster when you workout regularly. Sleep is profoundly important for heart health, but also for weight management. When you get too little sleep, your body produces fewer satiety hormone and more hunger hormones.
  • You’ll have better posture when you workout regularly. Improved posture makes you look confident and can help prevent back problems and other painful posture related conditions.
  • If you’re trying to give up bad habits, substitute a workout. Quitting smoking is one example where you can substitute some type of exercise for a cigarette. Studies show exercise helps conquer drug addiction, too.
  • Not only will you improve your health, you’ll improve your productivity. Exercise boosts your energy level. It also improves your self-confidence, improving your potential to try new things.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Keep Your Core Strong

Keep Your Core Strong

No matter what activity you’re doing, your core muscles are involved in some way. Even sitting involves core muscles. They’re the muscles of your torso that start right below the pecs and continue right beneath the abs, which includes the muscles in your back. Strong core muscles affect how all the other muscles function, which includes how you walk. When they’re strong, core muscles provide stability and improves balance. The stronger your core muscles are, the stronger and more powerful you’ll be.

Why are core muscles important for weight loss?

The more muscle tissue you have, the easier it is to lose weight. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it will be for you to workout and keep going to build other muscle groups. Working your core muscles help you look thinner by improving your posture. Improved posture can change your appearance in seconds. Stand in front of the mirror and slouch as you would with bad posture. Look closely. Next stand up straight, shoulders back and head held high. You’ll see a huge difference. You’ll not only look thinner, you’ll look more confident, too.

You’ll be able to perform tasks more easily.

Strong core muscles can help prevent injuries that can occur whether exercising or doing every day types of tasks, like picking up a bag of groceries or bending down to tie your shoes. When you have weak core muscles, even those simple activities can cause injury. If your work involves twisting or standing very long, strong core muscles are imperative. Even sitting at your desk can involve the use of core muscles and can cause backaches if you have poor posture from weak muscles.

When your core muscles are weak, you’ll have poor balance and won’t look your best.

Those flat abs are just strong core muscles. That improved posture shows them off to others. Having a strong back and abdomen can help you look slimmer, plus benefit you if you’re playing any type of sport. It makes your arms and legs work better with the power coming from the core. Even sexual activity is better, since it requires strength from the core and core flexibility.

  • If back pain is bothering you, it may be because you need stronger core muscles. It requires both strong back muscles and abs to provide balance. Core exercises can often help relieve back pain and prevent it from returning.
  • Strong core muscles can help you zip through physical tasks, particularly if they involve lifting, bending, twisting or reaching overhead. If you’ve ever found your back hurts after vacuuming or mopping, you need to work on your core muscles.
  • Your core muscles protect your organs, like your stomach, intestines, heart and liver. It acts as a shield to prevent injury from blows.
  • All exercises, no matter what body part they’re working, require strong core muscles. Core muscles do more than help you stay upright, they help you move through every exercise in the gym.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Is Trail Mix A Healthy Snack?

Is Trail Mix A Healthy Snack?

If you’ve tried finding healthy snacks and settled on the ease of small bags of trail mix, make sure it’s the right type. That’s extremely important if you want a healthy snack that will benefit your body, help you lose weight and keep you fill you up, not out. Commercial trail mix isn’t necessarily the healthiest of snacks, particularly if you choose one that has M&Ms or other types of candy as the primary ingredient. So which type of trail mix should you choose?

Opt for trail mix that’s mostly nuts and fruit.

If you’re munching on trail mix filled with yogurt-covered raisins or yogurt pretzels, you’re missing the whole idea of a healthy trail mix. Those yogurt coated treats come at a price to your body. Not only do they act as a filler, eliminating truly healthy options, they add hydrogenated oils and sugar, without much benefit. Yogurt is good for you, since it’s a probiotic, but there’s no live bacteria in that coating. Those with added chocolate may or may not be healthy. Even those that specifically advertise probiotics aren’t as good as eating live bacteria yogurt.

How is the trail mix seasoned?

Some trail mixes have a high amount of salt, which can up your sodium intake. Others are flavored with seasonings, such as chipotle or barbecue. These also contain salt and may have added sugar for flavor. Always read the label to find the lowest sodium content and added sugar content. It shouldn’t contain any added sugar, as the sweetness from fruit in the trail mix is enough. Sugar in the trail mix should come from the fruit added.

Opt for making your own to control the addition of unwanted sugar, sodium or other ingredients.

You can get creative when you make trail mix at home. Start with raw or dry roasted nuts of any type. Some people believe it’s best to use raw nuts. Choose your favorite or mix it up. Walnuts are good for the brain, while almonds can improve insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels. Brazil nuts provide antioxidants, while provide heart healthy fat. Hazel nuts are also heart healthy. Peanuts can reduce inflammation that can cause serious conditions. They all have many other benefits, but these are just a few. Add in seeds like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, dried fruit and if you want, a smidgen of fun things, like popcorn or dark chocolate.

  • If the chocolate is milk chocolate, you’re not doing your body a favor, but a small amount of dark chocolate can be beneficial. A few high quality dark chocolate bits can be good for your health.
  • As of 2020, companies are required to list added sugar information. There’s not only a difference from company to company, but also within different types of trail mix from the same company.
  • Always focus on portion size if you’re trying to lose weight. The amount of trail mix you eat should fit in a cupped hand, about 1/4th cup. There’s a lot of calories in trail mix, even though it’s healthy, stick with portion size. increase portion size if adding air-popped popcorn.
  • Sip water when eating trail mix, particularly if it has dried fruit. It will help expand the fruit and make you feel fuller longer.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Granola Bars - The Good, Bad And Ugly

Granola Bars – The Good, Bad And Ugly

Snacking plays an important role in your diet. It can help keep the fires of your metabolism burning strong, keep you working out at your best and help you feel fuller so you don’t eat as much at your next meal. That doesn’t mean just any snack will do. You need a healthy snack that is lower in calories and provides many of the nutrients you need each day. Many people have found that granola bars are their go-to snacks. They’re portable and often quite delicious, but are they good for you? The answer is yes and no. It all depends on the granola bar and how many you consume.

The most popular ones aren’t necessarily the healthiest.

In order to find out whether a food is healthy, you have to read the label. Does it contain high amounts of saturated fat, over 20% of your daily allowance? Does it contain added sugar? Unfortunately, some of the most popular brands of granola bars were also ones that contained the most sugar and saturated fat. While some granola bars contain natural sugar from fruit, like date paste or natural applesauce for sweetening, others use unacceptable types of sweeteners, like cane sugar, honey, maple syrup or high fructose corn syrup.

How much protein, fiber and unsaturated fat does the granola bar contain?

Nuts and seeds can provide the unsaturated fat your body needs to be its healthiest. Just like protein and fiber, it helps keep you feeling full, while providing nutrients to your body. In order to be effective at that, your granola bar should contain at least five grams of each, fiber, unsaturated fat and protein. Check the label to see if your favorite does. Not only do nuts and seeds provide unsaturated fat, they also provide protein.

It’s hard to find granola bars without some type of added sugar.

If you’re reading labels faithfully, you’ll notice some companies don’t show how much added sugar in their nutritional facts. Very few bars are produced with little added sugar, which includes all sweeteners that don’t come from fruit. Most of the time raisin juice, raisins or date paste is used. Some companies sweeten their products with artificial sweeteners like xylitol and sorbitol, which can cause digestive upset. Like many highly processed foods, they may contain preservatives and artificial flavor.

  • The American Heart Association suggests that consuming an average diet of 2,000 calories, 13 grams is all you should have. Any bar containing more than 2.6 grams contains more than 20% and isn’t as healthy as it should be.
  • Some bars are created to be meal bars and aren’t meant to be snacks. Don’t treat them as such. They’re acceptable as a meal-on-the-fly, but are often far higher in calories. Some contain as many as 600+ calories.
  • You can make your own granola bars and control the ingredients. Use oats, nuts, dates, nut butter and dried fruit. You need to pulse the dates in a food processor or use date paste and warm the nut butter before mixing it into the other ingredients.
  • Don’t be fooled by the location of the granola bars. Even if you buy them from a health food store or the health food aisle of the grocery, always read the label to see just how healthy it is.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Why Am I Craving Sweets?

Why Am I Craving Sweets?

It’s two in the morning and suddenly, you find yourself unable to sleep and craving sweets. You go through the cupboard and refrigerator to find something, anything, to satisfy that urge. Finally, in desperation you throw a burrito shell on a hot buttered griddle, heat one side, flip it and sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. Your urge is satisfied and you now can go to sleep. That’s not a story I made up, but one that a client at Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, told me. Together, we found the cause for that craving. It’s not just late at night that cravings come. You may find yourself snatching the last bit of candy from your child’s Easter Basket or stock up on sugary treats at the gas station.

Sugar is addictive.

Most of the time, you get a rush of energy when you eat a high carb sugary treat. It’s more than satisfying, it actually changes the brain circuitry similar to cocaine. It impacts the reward system of the brain, which is the release of dopamine, the happy hormone. It also dampens the sensitivity of the opioid receptors. A 12-day animal study showed that giving unrestricted access to sugar water for just one hour a day with normal food also given, completely altered the pleasure center and pushing natural pleasures to the background, just as drug addiction does. As with all addictions, you’ll crave sugar.

It’s a vicious cycle.

It might be your addiction to sugar and quick carbohydrates that are keeping you awake. Everyone is different and for most, the rush of sugar can boost their energy level. For those addicted to sugar, that sudden withdrawal of quick energy can cause sleepless nights. The changes in your brain chemistry leads to the same effects as any drug addiction. Try to break that addiction and you’ll go through withdrawal, which includes having insomnia. What’s even worse, is that lack of sleep can also cause you to crave sugar.

The more sugar you eat, the more you crave.

It’s natural for people to immediately like sugar. Scientists believe it’s a natural urge, since most sweet tasting plants aren’t poisonous and it was built into man for survival. Today, sugar is in everything you eat and drink. When you eat too much sugar, it actually changes your taste buds, requiring more sugar to get the sugary taste, so you crave more and more. The more sugar you eat, the less you notice the sweetness of food and the more you need.

  • High fructose corn syrup is used in many products, so even if you think you’ve cut out sugar, you still may be consuming it where you would least likely expect, like in nut butters or cereals.
  • Eating a diet too low in all carbs will cause insomnia, since the body needs carbs to make serotonin, which you need to sleep. You may be craving sugar because you aren’t eating enough calories.
  • Some cravings aren’t physiological, but psychological. Are sugary treats your go-to comfort food? Try switching to fruit and savoring the sweetness of it.
  • When you get a sugar craving, try doing something else like going for a walk or drinking a glass of water. Grabbing a candy bar or other sugar may be more of a habit. If it is, switch it for a new one.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Is Coconut Water Healthy For You?

Is Coconut Water Healthy For You?

If you’ve noticed, coconut water has become quite popular. One reason is that it’s touted as being quite healthy. Before we go into whether it’s really that good for you, you need to know what coconut water is. It’s actually not water, but the juice that comes from the coconut. When you combine that juice with freshly grated coconut, you get coconut milk. Many people use coconut water to replace sports drinks, since it contains natural amounts of electrolytes, such as calcium, potassium and sodium, but some people feel that plain water is just as good for rehydrating.

Coconut water might benefit heart health and aid diabetics.

There are numerous studies presently being conducted on the benefits of coconut water. Some have shown coconut water might be of benefit for lowering blood pressure and improving heart health. Diabetics may benefit from drinking coconut water. Not only is it lower in calories than traditional fruit juices, it also may lower blood sugar levels and help control blood sugar. Drinking coconut water has shown it can lower markers for oxidative stress.

You’ll get stronger teeth and bones if you drink coconut water instead of sugary soft drinks.

Coconut water contains calcium, which is necessary for strong bones and teeth. It can help stave off loss of bone density that occurs as people age. It’s especially important for people that can’t tolerate milk products due to lactose intolerance or allergies. Not only will you get a sweet taste from coconut water and coconut milk, making it a good substitute for soft drinks, you won’t consume as many calories or have to worry about the effects of sugar on your teeth.

Coconut water may be a beauty aid.

Coconut water is loaded with antioxidants and those help eliminate free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and even cause cell death. Cell death causes aging to accelerate. If you’re under stress, coconut water can protect your cells. Are you trying to lose weight? The manganese in coconut water can help boost your metabolism.

  • While drinking plain water is effective in helping to flush out kidney stones, drinking coconut water has been shown to be more effective. The potassium in coconut water can also help prevent cramps.
  • Coconut water contains vitamin C. That can boost your immune system and help you fight off diseases. If you feel a cold coming on, increase your intake of coconut water for this very important vitamin.
  • Coconut water has carbs that can give you a boost during your workout. You can drink it before a workout, sip it during a workout or drink it afterward to boost your energy level.
  • Gastrointestinal illness can lead to dehydration. Not only does coconut water replenish your minerals and fluids, it also has amino acids, which can help with the actual problem to eliminate the diarrhea.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


What's Your Prime Workout Time?

What’s Your Prime Workout Time?

Each person has a different prime workout time. There’s no right or wrong time, since it’s based on your internal clock. Do you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to face the day, or are you constantly hitting the snooze button, finally dragging yourself out of bed? The most important thing you can do is simply start a workout program, even if you have to adjust the time later for a time that works better with your schedule and your body.

Some people love working out before leaving for work, others find it better at lunchtime or after work.

There are benefits for every time of day. For those that choose the first thing in the morning, not only do they get to check it off before the day gets crazy, there are physical benefits. You’re fasting when you sleep, so if you workout when you first arise, you’ll get the benefit of working out on an empty stomach. Your body will be using stored fat for energy. It can train your body to burn fat more efficiently. To ensure you don’t break down muscle tissue, drink a protein shake or eat a small amount of protein and carbs, like peanut butter and apple, a half hour before working out.

If you want to train for aerobic events or improve your endurance, make sure you have adequate stores of glycogen.

If you’re training for a specific event, such as a marathon that requires endurance, working out at noon, the late afternoon or early evening can be your best bet. Your muscles and liver have the maximum amount of glycogen at that time. It happens after you’ve consumed a full meal with carbs, protein and fat two to three hours earlier. That store of glycogen ensures you won’t run out of energy during your exercise routine.

If you want to build strength and do power lifting, you won’t do your best when you first arise.

If you’re expecting to do your best when you’re pumping iron, don’t expect to do it when you first jump out of bed. Your body temperature is lower when you sleep and it takes a bit of activity before it rises. Also, the discs in your back are filled with fluid and that also goes back to normal after you’ve been up a while. Give your body time to wake up if you’re doing strength training, especially if you have back problems.

  • No matter what time is your best, once you find it, be consistent. If you schedule your workout at the same time every day, it will become a habit. Make sure you treat your workout as you would any appointment.
  • Make sure your workout time works with your schedule. If your mornings are rushed, but you always have time after work, it makes sense to exercise then.
  • If you love the feeling of relaxation working out brings after a long stressful day, that’s the best time for you to workout. Some people actually find that the later they workout, the easier it is to sleep. Others find it makes sleeping difficult if they workout too late.
  • Don’t forget to grab something light to eat a half hour before a strenuous morning workout to supplement depleted glycogen. You’ll still burn fat, but have the energy to maximize your effort.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Just Keep Active

Just Keep Active

Even if you workout three times a week at Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, it’s still important to keep active when you aren’t at the gym. Studies show that even if you workout regularly, you’ll lose a lot of the benefit if you regularly sit for longer than an hour. If you have a desk job or are at the computer, take five minutes out of every hour to move. It can be something as simple as just getting up and walking around the room or even doing a simple exercise, like jogging in place. You’ll feel better, do your body a favor and be more alert to finish your mental work more quickly, since the movement stimulates blood flow.

Take time every day to do something active.

You can walk to lunch, ride your bike to work or just do a few warm-up movements in the morning. Exercise and that extra movement will boost your mood and make your day a little better. There was a study that followed people as they aged. It found that those who walked briskly and had a longer stride lived longer and had fewer physical problems.

Staying active provides many benefits.

The more active you are, the more potential there is for good health. A study following two groups of people, one group watched more than four hours of TV daily and the other watched less. Those with the highest sedentary activities, which was watching TV, had an 80% higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Staying active can lower your blood pressure, improve circulation, improve cholesterol levels, aid in weight control and prevent osteoporosis.

Staying active can provide other benefits.

If you’re trying to quit smoking or kick another habit, staying active can be a huge aid. Exercise also improves cognitive functioning and helps you get more done in less time. Instead of interfering with your workload, it can make the job go quicker, whether it’s physical or mental. Any type of physical activity can also be an aid in controlling stress.

  • People who stay active tend to have a more positive outlook on life. That’s because it burns off stress hormones and replaces them with ones that make you feel good.
  • When you stay active, you’ll get a better quality of sleep and fall asleep quicker. Getting a good night’s rest is not only heart healthy, it also makes you more productive and energetic the next day.
  • When you live an active lifestyle, you tend to have a better self-image and improved self-confidence. You’ll walk taller, which makes others see you as more confident and often more capable.
  • We can help you live a healthier lifestyle. Our personal trainers will create a program specifically for your needs that will help you achieve the best you that you can be.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Be Your Healthiest Version Now

Be Your Healthiest Version Now

What is your healthiest version of you? If you don’t know or haven’t experienced the healthiest you for a while, it’s time to make a change. You could look better, feel better and enjoy the benefits of good health and more energy by starting today. If you take your car to the mechanic for regular oil changes and other maintenance, are you treating your body as well as you do your vehicle? If the answer is no, then you have to ask, “why not?”

Start by deciding what’s important to you.

Do you want more energy? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want a toner, better looking body or simply want to feel better every day? That’s a start on finding what the best version of you is. When you workout with a personal trainer, one of the first things the trainer will discuss is your goal. Once you know your goal, the trainer works with you by creating a plan that provides the steps to help you reach it. The “best you” is a very personal goal. You are unique and deserve a personalized plan.

Treat your body with kindness.

Let’s go back to the car analogy. What if you put water or sugar in the gas tank? Your car would cease running immediately. The same is true for your body. If you feed it the wrong fuel, it definitely will affect how you feel, how you look and your overall energy and health. Learning to eat healthier is one important part of being the best version of yourself. In fact, most trainers feel that a great body starts in the kitchen and that diet is an integral part of fitness.

Make lifestyle changes, which includes exercise and healthy eating.

While eating healthy and exercising play a big role in being the best version of yourself, so does staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep and eliminating bad habits, like smoking or drinking too much alcohol. If you’re tired, grab a glass of water, it will boost your energy level faster than a cup of coffee. Mild dehydration can make your energy level drop significantly.

  • If you smoke and want to quit, exercising can help you do that. Not only will you be helping yourself by quitting smoking, you’ll also be helping your body become stronger and stave off the weight gain that quitting smoking can cause.
  • Staying hydrated is particularly important the older you get, since you tend to dehydrate faster as you age. Even mild dehydration in seniors can cause symptoms of dementia or UTIs.
  • Getting adequate sleep is not only heart healthy, it helps you function better mentally and can be a benefit for anyone trying to lose weight. Lack of sleep makes your body produce more ghrelin—the hunger hormone and suppress the creation of leptin—the one that make you feel full.
  • Our trainers can help you become the best possible you, while also helping you reach your goals. In fact, once you reach your goal, they’ll also help you set the next goal to become even better.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Is Running In Place A Good Workout?

Is Running In Place A Good Workout?

If you can’t get to the gym, time is at a minimum or you’re cooped up overnight at a hotel, running in place can be a viable alternative to a good workout that focuses on all types of exercise and the entire body. You can modify your in place running by doing high knee kicks, jump squats and butt kicks to make it even more effective. Best of all, it’s good for those times when you’re at the breaking point and need to get rid of stress or simply have been sitting for long periods and need a little break.

Don’t expect all the same results as normal running.

When you run in place, you’re using different muscles, have a different stride and using different movements. You’ll still get aerobic benefits as you would if you ran outside or did some treadmill time. It’s hard to maintain as a longer workout, but a ten-minute session, three times a day could provide the half hour workout if you have no other option.

You’ll use a different set of muscles than you would for regular running, but that can be good.

Not only is your body not required to be propelled forward when you run in place, it’s not a good thing, either. So, you won’t be using muscles that place your foot ahead and pull you in a forward direction, but you will be lifting your legs straight up to build your glutes. It’s why avid outside runners may find running in place a bit wearing and uncomfortable. When you run in place, you tend to land on your toes more, which is both good and bad. It does build ankle and lower leg strength, but also can put more pressure on your hips and knees.

Boost your muscle strength when you run in place.

You’ll be constantly contracting your muscles and that improves not only strength, but also flexibility. It increases your cardiovascular health, too, by boosting your heart rate and improving circulation. While running in place works primarily the lower muscle groups, it also provides some exercise for core muscles and upper body muscles, especially if you pump your arms. Running place can also aid in weight loss by burning calories and improve your blood sugar levels. You’ll boost your lung capacity, too.

  • Running in place is harder on the body and doesn’t provide as much benefit as regular running. To do it safely, you need to focus on proper form and consider doing it on a carpet than hard floor or concrete.
  • If you suffer from knee pain, running in place will help make your knees stronger and may reduce the pain. Always check with your health care professional first.
  • If you want an exercise that improves coordination, balance and agility, running in place can be one of those. The more you improve your balance and coordination, the less prone you’ll be to injuries from falls.
  • If you want to improve your posture, engage your abdominal muscles, squeezing them tightly as you run. You’ll walk taller and help prevent back strain when you do.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness